I was reading the "Be Inspired" column today in the Star about how this Indian boy whose father and mother are odd job workers, hardly earned enough to eat and where he and his siblings would often go hungry for days. He had no proper shoes and would wear his totally worn out shoes and walked kilometers to school but with one fierce determination to learn and to succeed. He would improved his English through reading old Star newspapers that his mother picked up to generate additional income. Despite being hungry and wanting in so many departments, he did not give up but strive to study hard, scoring straight As in his PMR and his SPM examination. With a state funded scholarship, his dream of furthering his studies in France has finally came true.
All these brought me to recall two of my childhood classmates, both from the same class since Form 4 and 6 in ACS Ipoh. One from an average family and another from a poorer family living in Jelapang. Both equally determined to excel during our school days but unfortunately both ended rather differently in life.
I met Poh Cheng, a Chinese educated student when we did our Lower Six in ACS Ipoh together. He was well built, evident from his years of practicing Wushu, shy but ever so cheerful with a perpetual smile. We were all in the Bio-Math stream and he was exceptionally good in almost every subject from Chemistry, Physics (which I was totally hopeless at), Biology and Mathematics, all this despite his constant challenge in understanding English since all our reference books then were in English. His biggest fear was "Kertas Am" (General Paper), because this was a Bahasa Malaysia subject where a good grasp of Bahasa Malaysia is almost a must in order to get through.
But he was determined and I remembered him reading and reading and reading, just to improve his grasp of both these languages.
One thing that strikes me the most is that he cycled to school every morning from Jelapang to ACS Ipoh, a journey that would cover more than a few kilometers. He was not one of those richer Ipoh kids who took buses and were chauffeured driven to school. Being a school prefect myself, I honestly do not recall him ever going in late for school.
I remembered one time when we had to prick our own fingers to get blood for one of our biology lab class and my dear friend almost fainted at the sight of blood.
Needless to say, he passed his STPM with flying colours.
Today Dr Liew is my son's pediatrician. He has certainly come a long way. Even when he first started his clinic, I remembered him working very long hours to establish himself. Today, he has a beautiful family, established career, driving a posh 2 door imported car, traveled the world and financially more than stable. He is still as jovial, ever smiling and ever so friendly.
His fierce determination to succeed has found SUCCESS.
Then, there is other friend of mine. Kim Seng was a skinny fella but super talented in art. We both took art in our Form Five SPM and I remembered that we were constantly competing to see who got better grades. Even now, I fondly remembered his superb rendering of the water droplet in water colour on fruits and leaves. Till today, I still could not reproduce the same.
He was from an average family and he too was equally determined to do well and was studious, unlike me who got a little too active `chasing girls' and getting involved in almost every organisation that is to join to get to know the opposite sex. (ahem!). Despite his efforts, we both did not do that well in our STPM. I went on to study at TARC while he went on to resit his STPM.
On his second attempt he passed and got accepted into a university in Singapore. We communicated once during that time. When he was in his second year while I was doing my third in TARC, I received the dreaded news from my Ipoh classmates who were also studying in Singapore. Kim Seng has committed suicide by hanging himself. He left behind a letter for his parents, asking for forgiveness for letting them down.
Till today, I do not know the exact reasons that had drove him to end his young life in such a tragic manner. I am sure that he thought that whatever that he was facing then was insurmountable and he gave in to the stress and he gave up his will to fight on and live ....
Today, Kim Seng remains a memory of a good childhood friend and every time I see a water droplet on an apple or a leaf, I can vividly see his face ....
Therein lies the importance of possessing both of the above, a Strong Determination to Succeed and an equally strong conviction to NEVER GIVE IN and NEVER GIVE UP!
"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." (Sir Winston Churchill in his famous speech to the students at Harrow School in 1941)